The guitars played by Dave Matthews are as distinctive and dynamic as his music. As a celebrated musician and frontman of the Dave Matthews Band, his choice of instruments significantly contributes to his signature sound.

Throughout his career, Matthews has favored specific models that match his rhythmic playing style and the eclectic musical influence of the band.

His approach to guitar playing reflects a versatile blend of strumming techniques and unique tuning systems, which have intrigued both fans and fellow guitarists.

dave matthew play

One particular instrument that stands out in Matthews’ collection is his Rockbridge Acoustic Guitar Model SJ , a custom piece crafted to suit his musical needs. His preference for guitars goes beyond just brand; it extends into the materials and construction of the instrument, which factor into the distinctive tones he achieves on stage and in the studio.

Matthews’ amplification and effects setup also play a crucial role in crafting the Dave Matthews Band’s sound, expanding the guitar’s natural acoustic qualities into something electric and powerful. This careful selection of gear is a testament to his influence on music and guitar culture.

Key Takeaways

  • Dave Matthews selects guitars that complement his rhythmic playing style and the Dave Matthews Band’s sound.
  • Custom and finely crafted guitars, like the Rockbridge Acoustic Model SJ, are integral to his unique tone.
  • Matthews’ choices in amplification and effects contribute to his and the band’s influential position in music culture.

Dave Matthews’ Guitar Preferences

Dave Matthews exhibits distinct preferences for his guitars, with notable favoritism towards certain brands and models for both his acoustic and electric guitar needs. This section explores the specific instruments that have become staples of his sound.

Acoustic Guitars

The backbone of Dave Matthews’ acoustic sound comes primarily from Taylor Guitars and Martin Guitars. He frequently plays the Taylor 914ce, renowned for its crystal-clear tone and sustain. Matthews also includes in his repertoire the Taylor 714, known for its warm sound, making regular appearances in live performances. Additionally, the iconic Gibson J-45 has been part of his collection, adding a vintage tone to his acoustic sets.

Electric Guitars

Though less prominent in his performances, Matthews does not neglect the electric guitar. He has been seen wielding a Fender Stratocaster, a staple in the electric guitar world, known for its versatility and bright tones.

Matthews also has a history with Veillette Guitars, using their unique electric models to expand his sound palette on select tracks.

Signature and Custom Models

Custom models tailored to his playing style mark Matthews’ influence on guitar craftsmanship. Martin Guitars created the Dave Matthews Signature Model, based on the Martin D-14 platform but equipped with personalized features to suit his playing style. This level of customization ensures that the acoustic guitars carrying his signature not only represent his sound but also his approach to guitar design.

Notable Guitars in Dave Matthews’ Collection

Dave Matthews has played a variety of guitars over the years, each adding its unique tone and character to his music. In his diverse collection, certain instruments stand out either for their frequent stage presence or their tailored specifications to suit his playing style.

Taylor 914ce Signature Dave Matthews Acoustic Guitar

The Taylor 914ce Signature Dave Matthews Acoustic Guitar is a central piece of Matthews’ sound. Crafted to match his preferences, this guitar features a Grand Auditorium body shape known for its balanced tone. You can learn more about the Taylor 914CE Signature Dave Matthews Acoustic from this guide.

Other Key Guitars

  • Martin HD-28: This guitar was Matthews’ main choice during the 1999 Dave and Tim shows and is also featured in the VH1 Storytellers with Tim Reynolds, before his signature model was developed. Martin HD-28 has been a significant part of his guitar history.
  • Rockbridge SJ Custom: Matthews presently endorses and plays Rockbridge guitars, with the Rockbridge SJ Custom being his primary choice. This instrument is tailored to his playing specifications and is often seen in his more recent performances.
  • Gibson Chet Atkins SST: Before his switch to Taylor guitars, the Gibson Chet Atkins SST was frequently used by Matthews throughout the late 90s. It is noted for its electric-like playability with an acoustic sound.
  • Martin DM3MD: A limited-edition signature model created for Matthews by Martin Guitar, which reflects his preference for craftsmanship and sound quality.
  • Taylor W65 12-String: Known for producing a rich, full sound, this 12-string guitar adds a distinct layer to some of Matthew’s arrangements.
  • Yamaha Country Jumbo: Tied to his early years, the Yamaha Country Jumbo models were among the gear that accompanied Matthews as he established his musical career.

Matthews’ guitar collection tells a story of his musical journey, showcasing the evolution of his sound and the instruments that helped shape it. Each guitar serves a purpose, whether it be for studio recordings or live performances, contributing to the distinct Dave Matthews Band sound.

Guitar Techniques and Playing Style

Dave Matthews has captivated audiences with his unique playing style that includes a blend of strumming and intricate fingerpicking patterns, often employing alternate tunings to create his distinctive sound.

Strumming and Fingerpicking Patterns

Matthews’s rhythm work is dynamic, oscillating between forceful strums and gentle fingerstyle. He deftly utilizes a variety of chords, ranging from basic open chords to complex, jazz-influenced shapes that add richness to his music. Fingerpicking plays a significant role in Matthews’s acoustic songs, where he often opts for intricate patterns that add a percussive element to the sound.

  • Strumming: Emphasizes both upstrokes and downstrokes for rhythmic variety
  • Fingerpicking: Incorporates arpeggios and syncopation to embellish melodies

Tuning and Technical Setup

Dave Matthews frequently experiments with alternate tunings, which allows him to create voicings and resonances that are not possible in standard tuning. The use of these tunings often complements the time signatures he chooses, providing a broad sonic palette.

  • Alternate Tunings: Commonly found in his repertoire to expand the harmonic possibilities
  • Technical Setup: Tailors his guitar’s setup to accommodate his aggressive playing style and tunings

By paying close attention to tuning and technical details, Matthews ensures that his playing remains consistent and expressive during live performances and studio sessions. His command of rhythm and fingerstyle techniques underpins his reputation as an innovative guitarist.

Guitar Materials and Construction

Dave Matthews’ selection of guitars is renowned for their distinctive materials and construction, which contribute to his unique sound. The woods and components used in the construction play a pivotal role in shaping the tonal characteristics of each instrument he plays.

Wood and Body Materials

Rosewood and Sitka spruce are central to the construction of Dave Matthews’ acoustic guitars, such as the Taylor 914C, which was one of his most influential instruments. Rosewood is often used in the back and sides of acoustic guitars for its rich, resonant sound, while Sitka spruce, commonly used for the top or soundboard, is prized for its clarity and dynamics.

Earlier in his career, Matthews also made notable use of mahogany, a wood known for its warmth and emphasis on midrange frequencies, particularly in live performances where he needed a guitar that provided a full-bodied sound without the aid of amplification.

Strings and Hardware

The strings of a guitar significantly influence its playability and tone. Matthews has used a variety of guitars including 6-string acoustics and unique configurations like 12-string models that offer a richer, more chorused sound, reminiscent of a violin’s vibrato. Similarly, string choices can vary in material and gauge to give different sonic results.

High-quality hardware is another essential component. For instance, an ebony fretboard not only provides a sleek visual aspect but also contributes to the instrument’s sustain and tonal definition. It is a dense wood that is often sought after for its smooth playability and crisp articulation, adding to the guitar’s overall response and feel.

Amplification and Effects Setup

Dave Matthews’ sonic signature is as much a product of his amplification and effects setup as it is a result of his guitar choice and playing style. Marty Bracey, Matthews’ Guitar Tech, plays a pivotal role in ensuring that his setup is impeccable, delivering the rich, live sound that fans have come to adore.

Amps and Pedals

Dave Matthews employs various amplifiers to project his acoustic guitar over large arenas. His setup has included the Ultrasound Amps, providing a clean and transparent sound. Matthews has traditionally shown a preference for minimal effects on his acoustic performance.

However, he integrates a tailored set of pedals to enhance his live sound. These typically comprise a volume pedal for dynamic control and a chorus pedal to add depth and shimmer to certain songs.

Pickups and Sound Enhancement

Matthews’ guitars are equipped with high-quality piezo pickups positioned under the saddle at the soundhole for capturing the vibrations of the strings with clarity.

The use of these pickups allows for a detailed acoustic tone when amplified, preserving the natural sound of the guitar.

Further sound enhancement is achieved through careful equalization and sound checking by his dedicated Guitar Tech before each performance, ensuring that the setup perfectly complements the acoustics of the venue.

Influence on Music and Guitar Culture

Dave Matthews stands out in the music scene for his unique blend of rock, jazz, and pop influences, which has made a significant impact on guitar culture. His skillful songwriting and dynamic stage presence have cemented him as a commercially successful songwriter and one of the preeminent live acts.

Collaborations and Tours

Dave Matthews has joined forces with various renowned artists, enhancing his reputation in the music world. His collaborations with other guitarists, notably with John Mayer, have given fans memorable musical experiences that span different genres.

These partnerships have not only showcased his versatility but also his ability to adapt to different music styles.

His tours often serve as a platform for showcasing both his distinctive 6-string techniques and his preferred instruments and gear, leaving a lasting imprint on fans and musicians alike.

Impact on Fans and Musicians

Through his dynamic use of instruments, Dave Matthews has influenced a wide array of fans and aspiring guitarists. His choice of guitars, often seen with high-quality models from Martin and Taylor, has set a standard within guitar culture for quality and sound. Matthews’ signature sound has encouraged many to pick up a guitar and has enriched their approach to songwriting and performing.

His practical application of guitar in various musical contexts has shown that the guitar remains a versatile and expressive instrument in modern music, influencing musicians across rock, pop, and jazz genres. Matthews’ impact extends beyond his music, as he continues to inspire those in the guitar community to innovate and express their creativity.

Dave Matthews’ Musical Journey

Dave Matthews has carved a remarkable path through the music industry, marked by significant albums and a progressive mastery of the guitar that underscores his role as both lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist.

Albums and Milestones

Matthews’ rise to fame began with “Under the Table and Dreaming”. This debut studio album laid the foundation for a robust career, featuring hits like “Crash Into Me”, which became a staple of 1990s rock.

The album “Before These Crowded Streets” followed, further solidifying his distinctive sound. The band’s establishment as a major live act coincided with the release of “Crash”, with its well-known single “Too Much”. Moving forward, Matthews continued to evolve, with “Come Tomorrow” showcasing his growth as a musician and “Alligator Pie” embracing new stylistic elements.

  • Under the Table and Dreaming (1994)
  • Crash (1996): Featuring “Crash Into Me”, “Too Much”
  • Before These Crowded Streets (1998)
  • Come Tomorrow (2018)

Evolution as a Guitarist

Over the years, Matthews’ role as rhythm guitarist has been vital to the band’s texture. Often, he uses a capo and favors chords that lend a rich, full-bodied resonance to tracks like “Stay”.

His interplay with band members, particularly the late saxophonist Leroi Moore, magnified the sonic depth of their collaborations. Matthews’ playing style, characterized by complex fingering and strumming patterns, has remained a distinctive hallmark of the Dave Matthews Band’s sound through decades.

Maintenance and Care of Guitars

Proper maintenance and care are crucial for preserving the quality and sound of any guitar. High-profile musicians like Dave Matthews, with a significant net worth, often have a guitar tech to help ensure that their prized instruments are in top condition. However, these practices can be applied by any guitar owner to maintain their instrument’s longevity and performance.

Daily Maintenance:

  • Wipe down: After each use, use a soft, dry cloth to wipe the strings and body of the guitar. This removes oils and sweat that can corrode strings and the finish.
  • Tuning check: Ensure the guitar is in tune, as playing with improper tension can affect the neck and body.

Weekly Maintenance:

  • Fretboard cleaning: Using a slightly damp cloth, they clean the fretboard to remove any build-up.
  • Polishing: With a specific guitar polish, the body is polished to maintain its sheen.

Monthly Maintenance:

  • String replacement: Even with robust use, guitar strings should be changed regularly to preserve sound quality.
  • Hardware check: Tightening loose screws on tuners, strap buttons, and checking the integrity of bridges and saddles.

Seasonal Maintenance:

  • Humidity control: Guitars require a stable environment; drastic changes can warp wood. A humidifier or dehumidifier can be used as necessary.
  • Professional setup: An experienced guitar tech can adjust the action, intonation, and check for any potential issues.


  • Case Storage: When not in use, guitars should be stored in a hard case to protect against accidental damage and environmental changes.

By adhering to these care guidelines, both valuable and everyday guitars can be kept in performance-ready condition.

Frequently Asked Questions

Dave Matthews’ preferences and choices in guitars are both specific and influential. The following frequently asked questions provide insights into the instruments he plays, their specifications, and his personal approach to guitar playing.

What type of Rockbridge guitar does Dave Matthews prefer?

Dave Matthews has shown a preference for Rockbridge acoustic guitars, which are known for their handcrafted quality and rich sound.

What are the specifications of Dave Matthews’ Rockbridge guitar?

The specifications of Dave Matthews’ Rockbridge guitar typically include a spruce top with rosewood back and sides, customized to his playing style and tonal preferences.

Has Dave Matthews played guitars from brands other than Rockbridge?

Yes, Dave Matthews has played guitars from other brands, prominently Taylor and Martin guitars, and he also owns vintage Gibson guitars among others.

What are the characteristics of Dave Matthews’ Martin guitar?

Dave Matthews’ Martin guitar is renowned for its exceptional tone and playability, often featuring a dreadnought shape that suits his dynamic playing style.

What tuning methods are commonly used by Dave Matthews?

Dave Matthews often uses alternative tuning methods such as drop D, B standard, and other custom tunings to achieve his distinct sound.

What kind of strings and picks does Dave Matthews favor for his performances?

For his performances, Dave Matthews favors medium gauge strings and tends to use medium to thick picks to complement his rhythmic strumming and picking techniques.


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